According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘prodigal’ has two meanings. 1.) one who spends or gives lavishly and foolishly and 2.) one who has returned after an absence. In the case of the prodigal son Jesus spoke of in Luke, both definitions were at play. We read about the son who left his family and spent every drop of his early inheritance, only to realize just how much of a mistake he’d made and return home to beg for forgiveness, hoping it wasn’t too late. It’s a beautiful story, one I’ve read several times but didn’t fully grasp until it applied to me.
I feel like for the majority of my journey as a growing Christian, I’ve battled going back and forth with God’s love for me. It was extreme highs of feeling so valued by God when I was focused on Him, to feeling worthless and unlovable when I gave into the temptation of sin and strayed away. This last week was probably the lowest of the low for me.
I allowed sin in my heart. I even enjoyed divulging in things I know I shouldn’t be messing with, things that were no good for my growth as a Christian. I could feel the distance between God and myself growing wider. Because of that, guilt began to creep in. Self-hatred followed. Unreasonable anger and irritability were born. It’s a vicious cycle that I am all too familiar with. Apart from God, I have no joy. I knew this, I knew better.
I didn’t have it in me to repent. My pride and shame were too great. I truly felt like, even if I did ask for forgiveness, that God had changed his mind about me, that I was too far gone to come back. I had an epic breakdown that lasted an entire day. As I mentioned earlier, this pattern of push and pull with God wasn’t unfamiliar to me, but mentally this was the lowest of all of those times.
Naturally, as the southern girl I am, I called my momma. I thought maybe I could make myself feel better by venting to her. By the time she answered the phone, I had already given up and talked myself out of it. She texted me later to check up on me and I tried to explain over text how I felt.
Lost, too far gone, unworthy.
She reminded me of the story of the prodigal son. It wasn’t until I was laying in bed that night that I began to feel like I was suffocating under the weight of guilt and shame. I couldn’t just lay there and pretend God wasn’t right there waiting for me. I started to let it out. I tried to tell God the honest truth, even if He already knew. I was so sorry, I messed up. I begged Him not to leave me. I asked him to tell me something, anything that I needed to hear. To know that I wasn’t too far gone. I opened my Bible app on my phone because I didn’t have my actual Bible with me. I was nervous about what I might find. But I should have known better.
This was the first thing I saw.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:37-39 NIV
My heart began to sink because those verses are very significant to me in my walk with the Lord. It solidified the fact that God had answered my prayer right then with a passage that had a deeper meaning for me that I would understand.
As if that wasn’t enough, I read the story of the prodigal son. I was crying like a baby at the words of the father.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
Luke 15:21-24 NIV
I felt like the heavens came down in my room. When the father sees his son coming, he doesn’t stand and debate what he should do. He doesn’t get upset that his son returned after knowing what he had done. He says QUICK! My son is found!
God Almighty, my Father in heaven, heard me in my room and said QUICK! My daughter is back!
Jesus says there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than 99 righteous people who don’t need to repent. I felt heaven rejoice. I felt God restore my joy. I felt my burden and my shame lifted.
I have a prodigal heart. I am flesh, and I will fight sin until the day I die. But by the grace and mercy of God I am found!